Fallbrook High School’s boys soccer team won a CIF championship for the first time in the program’s history.
The Warriors concluded their 2013-14 season with a 2-1 victory over Patrick Henry High School in the CIF Division III final March 8 at Mesa College.
“It’s great emotion experiencing something like this,” said Fallbrook junior forward Luis Velasquez, whose goal provided the Warriors with the margin of victory.
“It’s always hard to come this far and lose, but they’re a good team,” Patrick Henry coach Cody Clark said of the Warriors.
“We just prepared and hoped for the best because we knew it was going to be a tough fight,” said Fallbrook coach Jorge Rojas.
The Warriors and Patriots both placed third in their final league standings. Fallbrook posted a regular-season record of 8-10-4, including a 3-4-3 Avocado West League figure, and received the third seed in the CIF Division III playoffs. Patrick Henry’s 6-7-5 regular-season record included a 3-3-2 Eastern League mark, and the Patriots were given the playoff’s ninth seed.
Fallbrook received a first-round bye in the playoffs while Patrick Henry faced eighth-seeded Vista on the Panthers’ field Feb. 26 and advanced with a 1-0 victory. The Patriots then traveled to Mira Mesa High School for a March 1 quarterfinal game with the top-seeded Marauders, whose two Eastern League games against Patrick Henry were a 5-0 home win and a 1-1 road tie. Fallbrook hosted sixth-seeded High Tech High Chula Vista in the Warriors’ March 1 quarterfinal.
The storm which caused rain March 1 affected the play in both contests. The Patriots attained a 2-1 victory over Mira Mesa in regulation. Fallbrook’s quarterfinal was tied at 2-2 after 80 minutes of regulation and after the two 15-minute field overtimes. “The weather didn’t allow us to play our game,” Rojas said.
The tie after the completion of the field overtimes triggered the penalty kick shootout, in which players alternate for five rounds (or fewer should one team mathematically clinch the shootout prior to the fifth round). Fallbrook made four penalty shots while the Bruins converted three, giving the Warriors a March 5 semifinal match at second-seeded Eastlake.
The semifinal was the second game of the season between Fallbrook and Eastlake; the Dec. 27 SoCal High School Classic tournament match played at Fallbrook was a 1-1 tie. The March 5 contest also had a 1-1 score at the end of regulation, but the need for a winner sent the game into field overtime and then into a shootout. “The semifinal versus Eastlake was just a high-intensity game, second seed versus third seed,” Rojas said.
The Warriors made four penalty kicks during the shootout while the Titans converted only one, sending Fallbrook to the CIF finals for the first time in eight years. Patrick Henry’s March 5 semifinal in El Centro against fifth-seeded Southwest was scoreless in regulation and field overtime before the Patriots were victorious on a 4-2 penalty kick advantage.
In the final, Patrick Henry took the opening kickoff. The Warriors were able to steal the ball, move it to the other half of the pitch, and take a shot which was wide to the left of the goal.
Fallbrook took five shots in the first half while Patrick Henry had three shots. Fallbrook goalie Gilberto Cortes and Patrick Henry goalie Emmanuel Huff each made two saves in the first half.
“The opponent was strong,” Rojas said.
For the most part the Warriors were more successful in maintaining possession of the ball and keeping the ball on the offensive side of the field. “We probably had possession 60 to 40 percent,” Rojas said.
In the 38th minute, a Patrick Henry player took advantage of a gap between two Fallbrook defenders. “There was a miscommunication,” Rojas said.
The pass allowed a shot into the net. However, the Patriots’ shooter was ruled offsides and the goal was nullified.
“My boys came into halftime knowing that we hadn’t achieved very much because of no goals,” Rojas said. “They came in a bit stronger second half.”
Zachary Pryor took over for Cortes in the nets for the second half. “I have two equally talented goalies. They both work hard in practice. They’re both seniors,” Rojas said about allowing both to participate in the CIF championship game.
In the 50th minute, a series of Fallbrook passes moved the ball from the left side to closer to the net. Fallbrook senior Ian Winterstrom was able to take a shot which provided him with his fifth goal of the season and gave Fallbrook a 1-0 lead 49:20 into the game.
“We tried hard and persevered to get that first goal that we really needed to boost our confidence,” Winterstrom said.
That was Fallbrook’s first shot of the second half. The Warriors’ second shot of the half was also a goal 62:27 into the game. A pass from the back half of the field found its way to Velasquez, who had only the Patrick Henry goalie between himself and the net. Velasquez moved the ball down the field before taking his shot. “I was scared. It was 50-50 with the goalie, but I knew that I could put it away,” Velasquez said.
The goal was Velasquez’s 10th of the season. “I was really happy that I got the opportunity to score,” he said.
In the 71st minute the Warriors committed a foul in the penalty box, giving the Patriots a penalty kick. Patrick Henry sophomore Connor Keller placed the ball to the left of Pryor and into the net. “I thought it was a pretty good shot. It went right into the corner,” Keller said.
“I was extremely concerned after the penalty kick,” Rojas said. “My team has a history this year of allowing short-term consecutive goals.”
Rojas told his team to be cautious, and they responded with mistake-free soccer.
In soccer, the clock is stopped for an injury or the issuance of a yellow card caution or red card ejection, but only the referee knows the exact time. The scoreboard clock was stopped after the 38th minute of each half. Any additional time in a half beyond the timed 40 minutes (in high school soccer halves are 40 minutes; professional soccer halves are 45 minutes) is known as “injury time.” The game included seven minutes of extra time in the second half. “We were at the edge of the seat,” Rojas said.
The Warriors and their fans were anxious to hear the actual final whistle. The first whistle during injury time was a red card on Patrick Henry’s Daniel Carabantes, which extended the additional time. The second whistle finally blew after Patrick Henry took a throw-in.
Rojas noted that the extra time allowed for 80 minutes of actual play. “I think both teams deserve every single minute that was wasted and spent on any stoppage,” he said.
The Patriots took six shots in the second half, including the goal. Pryor made four saves. Fallbrook’s four second-half shots included two which became saves along with the two goals.
Fallbrook starting defenders Parker Roberson, Ismael Mercado, Brett Winterstrom, and Abel Cruz aided the goalkeepers’ efforts. “Our defense is the engine to this team,” Rojas said.
“It’s all teamwork,” Velasquez said. “We communicate together, and it’s all built on teamwork.”
Roberson is the only junior among the Warriors’ starting defenders. Mercado, Winterstrom, and Cruz are seniors. Fallbrook’s championship team included a total of 10 seniors.
One player on each team received the CIF Sportsmanship Award. Keller was Patrick Henry’s recipient while Ian Winterstrom received the honor for Fallbrook.
The appearance in the CIF finals was the first in Patrick Henry boys soccer history. “Excellent season. I’m really proud of the boys,” Clark said. “I’m just happy for the boys and this is just scratching the surface for the soccer program, something to build on, and we’ll expect to be at this level next season as well, but I’m really happy for the seniors.”
Fallbrook had been in the CIF finals on four previous occasions, all when Fallbrook was in Division I for CIF playoff purposes, but had fallen short each time. The Warriors played in the 1995 final against San Diego, the 1996 championship match against Vista, the 2001 title game against Granite Hills, and the 2006 division finale against La Costa Canyon.
“I just want to thank the community; I want thank our administration, our teachers, our staff, our athletic department, and our families for allowing this to happen,” Rojas said. “I want to thank the school for giving me the opportunity to lead these guys. It has been a great year for me as a coach.”
Rojas also coaches club soccer for the Soccer Club of Oceanside program, and he was named coach of the year for that program. “I get to put the cherry on top with the CIF championship,” he said.
Team members of CIF-winning FUHS boys soccer team: